Thanksgiving, Poured Out

The holidays are upon us...with demands.

Places to go. Crap Stuff to buy. Food to make. Relationships to keep intact.

And we love it. Thanksgiving is an awesome time of gratitude, connecting with others, and enjoying life.

But how can we enjoy this time of the year with deep contentment?

Beyond Gratitude

We often connect gratitude with thanksgiving. Dr. Robert Emmons, considered the leading scientific expert on gratitude, explains there are two main components to gratitude:

  1. There's an "affirmation of goodness," and that we are recipients of these "gifts."
  2. As well, these gifts and good things do not start with us. “We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves," explains Dr. Emmons.

This makes total sense: how can we offer thanksgiving if we don't first affirm and recognize that we are receiving good things, and that these "gifts" do not originate from ourselves?

It would be a lonely world if I viewed all good things having stemmed from moi.

We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.

- Dr. Robert Emmons

This is where our faith in God comes into play during Thanksgiving. We are recipients of so many gifts and blessings because they rightfully originate from God, not from ourselves. And so, just feeling grateful cannot be enough. Responding to our gratitude is key.

The Movement of Thanksgiving

The Bible paints thanksgiving as outward expression of praise, adoration, prayer, supplication, and trust in God.

The priests of Israel offered sacrifices and "fellowship offerings of thanksgiving" to God (Leviticus 7:13-15).

The Psalmists portrayed thanksgiving as an outpouring of worship directed towards God (Psalms 69:30, 95:2, and 100:4).

In the New Testament, thanksgiving is often communal, directed towards God for His goodness or for the goodness of fellow believers. Paul exudes thanksgiving for his brothers and sisters in Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4).

So, how do we exude thanksgiving like Paul? How can we direct our gratitude in the right direction without feeling overwhelmed during the holidays?

Practicing Thanksgiving

1. Reorient

The media is going to present an ideal of happiness during the holidays. A surplus of material possessions, being dressed to the nines, and life working out like a Hallmark movie make up the sermons of consumerism.

We're all hearing a gospel from somewhere. We're all buying into a lifestyle and worldview which guides our hearts and minds.

But chasing the media's gospel of happiness, as you know, is short-lived. Picture Target or Walmart during Black Friday. Now fast-forward to the day after Christmas. Where's the peace on earth and the contentment?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

-Jesus (Matthew 6:19-21)

For the Son of God, who had almost no material possessions, setting His eyes on God brought a deep contentment the world couldn't bring.

2. Fill up with Contentment

We can't always help each situation we are in, but we can hold contentment close. We can fill our glasses with the sweetness of God's gifts and the goodness of those around us.

To be honest, I have to work hard to fill up with contentment before anxiety. It's easy for me to spot a wrinkle in my existence. To complain before rejoicing. Maybe being content takes intentional work, intentional praise.

Filling up with contentment, like how the Apostle Paul did, takes a lifestyle of trusting God.

Paul believed he had the "secret" to contentment.

Spoiler: it was not Black Friday. (-;

Though abandoned and often jailed for his missionary work, Paul grew to understand true contentment is found in fellowship with the Son of God and in pouring himself out for others.

3. Pour out with Thanksgiving

As Dr. Emmons argues, true gratitude responds to a source beyond ourselves.

For Paul, thanksgiving was a natural lifestyle in response to the Son of God, even during trials and hardships.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

-The Apostle Paul (Phippians 4:4-7)

This posture, this humility of raising our lives as a toast to our heavenly Father, defines thanksgiving for me.

To my family and friends,

I love you guys! I am so grateful God has placed you in my life. I hope I can pour out myself in new ways to invest in you, like how the Son has poured Himself out for us.

Love y'all!

This article was updated on November 26, 2020

Jordan Hopkins

Jordan is a freelance content writer and educator. He is passionate about serving others and amplifying their narratives through quality writing. You can find him hanging with his family, fishing, playing guitar, and grinding the best beans for his morning coffee.